Sunday, January 12, 2014

C.M.B. volume 08 review

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C.M.B., vol. 08, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

===== Spoilers =====

There are four short stories this time, and none of them are all that critical to understanding more about Shinra, Tatsuki or their families. So, I'll give short summaries of each one, plus I'LL GIVE AWAY THE ENDINGS.

(Example of the TV news people going overboard in demonizing criminal suspects.)

1 Oku 3 Senmannin no Higasha (One Hundred and 30 Million Victims, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2007).
The story starts out with two policewomen talking about Det. Kujirazaki, and how he's so dedicated to the job. While their interest in him is partly romantic, it sets up the fact that he's like a bulldog when he chases after a specific suspect. One day, he gets a photo of a field of flying ant lions, with a note saying that on Nov. 6, at 6 PM, there are going to be 130 million victims. He brings the photo to Shinra, but the boy can't see anything really unusual about it. Then, he gets a call that there's someone at the station looking for him. The visitor is Takiaki Yoshikawa. His father had been arrested and imprisioned 3 years ago for a grab-and-run purse snatching, where the thief kicked over a woman's baby carriage, killing the child inside it. The press and the public went crazy with their accusations, throwing rocks at Takiaki's window and calling for him to kill himself. His mother collapsed under the stress and is still in the hospital now. The thing is, Takiaki's father was innocent, and was pardoned 1 year ago after the real thief was caught, and it never made the news. His father has been spending all of his time after work in his room, and Takiaki thinks he's making a bomb from fireworks powder. Kujirazaki shows him the note and photo - the note is in his father's handwriting, but the photo doesn't mean anything to him. Kujirazaki then sets out after Masahisa Yoshikawa, trying to determine where the bomb will be set. The group thinks that it will be placed on one of the train lines somewhere in Tokyo, but none of the train companies can find anything unusual after doing sweeps of the tracks.

("Hey, we're all the victims here!")

===== Spoilers =====

As the deadline nears, Shinra realizes why Kujirazaki was chosen to get the warning note - to create an alibi for Masahisa. Shinra shows the photo to the old man, who says that the location is near a railroad bridge where he played with his son. The reason Nov. 6 was chosen is that's the day his wife committed suicide after all the stress from the attacks by the press and public. Takiaki is the one that built the bomb, and he's on the bridge at the time the 6 PM train comes. Kujirazaki calls in the alert and all the trains are stopped. The bomb is on a raft in the river, and when it hits one of the abutments, it blows up, doing only minor damage. Afterward, Shinra still doesn't know how Takiaki planned to have "130 million victims". But, as he's watching TV, he sees a news reporter interviewing people on the street. While they suspect Takiaki's intent was to draw attention to what happened to his father, the public says that it wasn't their fault that they overreacted - it was because of the press. The public is the real victim here. The news reporters that called for Masahisa's death then say it wasn't their fault their overreacted, they were just acting based on what the police told them. The press is the real victim here. Soon, every one of Japan's 130 million citizens is claiming that they're the victim, and that someone else is at fault. Meanwhile, Takiaki is in jail, and his father is now visiting him every day.

The primary science is a description of the Milgram Experiment, where a psychologist set up a situation where an anonymous person would give increasingly stronger electric shocks to a test subject everytime they made a mistake on an exam quiz. The point was to find out when the anonymous person would stop giving shocks that were becoming borderline lethal, when the researcher told them to keep going. In a way, it was an ethical test, with 65% giving the final "450 volt shock" to the victim because they were "just following orders".

(The scene of the crime.)

Meteoraito (A meteorite, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2008).
A sheepherder boy on the steppes of Kazakastan sees a meteorite flash by and explode. Afterward, Shinra is contacted by the governments of both Russia and Kazakhstan to resolve the dispute over who gets the rock. The crater was found near the Russia-Kazak border and both sides want it. Kazakhstan had been part of the U.S.S.R. before the break-up, and Russia still operates its rocket launch site in Kazakhstan, paying rent for the land. The Kazak people can be divided into 2 groups - the lucky ones living in town receiving the benefits of the Russian money, and the remaining poor outside the city fences that have no electricity or water works. Shinra is escorted by two scientists, the Kazak Merugen, and the Russian Oreck. The two get along well, but often fight over border disputes, politics, and who should get the rock. Shinra is the impartial third party. Additionally, at the crater is a meteorite hunter, the Kazak Arden. However, there's no meteorite, or traces of one. The sheepherder had reported to authorities that the explosion had occurred 3 days earlier, and with the size of the crater, the rock should have been about 500 kg (1100 pounds). The locals couldn't have transported out that many fragments in only 3 days, and there's no tire marks indicating that it was trucked out. The two scientists are baffled, and Arden says that there wasn't a meteor - this was another Tunguska Event (an air blast in 1908 that leveled trees for over 2,000 square kilometers, and leaving no other physical traces). That night, after Shinra spends the day looking at the Russian rockets, he and Tatsuki are ambushed by locals, but those are easily defeated. The next day, Shinra gives the big reveal.

(Locals vs Tatsuki. Not a fair fight.)

===== Spoilers =====

Shinra knows there was a meteorite, because the fused droplets of glass created by the impact contain iron from the rock, and are easily magnetized. Plus, Arden, a self-professed meteorite hunter, is still at the site, rather than out looking for rocks elsewhere. The trick is that Arden wanted the locals to receive the money from the sales of the fragments to museums and universities, so his plan was to lie about when the impact occurred. Rather than only 3 days ago, it was a couple weeks, giving the locals time to collect all the fragments, and sweep away all their tire tracks and foot prints. The two scientists are elated and the locals devastated. However, Shinra, being Japanese, will apply Japanese law in establishing ownership of a meteorite. That is, if it hits the surface of the planet and bounces, ownership goes to whoever owns the land where it is found. If it is embedded in the ground, it belongs to the owner of the land around the crater. But, if it breaks up, the fragments are "finders keepers". So, the locals can keep the pieces they stole, and Arden follows up on a bet with Shinra and gives the boy the meteorite he'd been carrying with him during the story.

A little bit of science, including the iron content of glass droplets being used to determine if a crater had been created by a meteorite, and the history of the Tunguska event.

(The slate depicting the reason the town is called Kushino.)

Kushino-mura Kitan (A Strange Tale from Kushino Mura, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2008).
Shinra's class is out for a day trip to the Japanese Alps for skiing. The boy had spent time in Switzerland with his adoptive fathers, where he'd learned to ski. So he and Tatsuki get into a grudge match over who can finish the most difficult runs. Before they can start, an old man tells them to visit a nearby shrine, first. At the shrine, the students notice that the statues out front are dedicated to cats that helped save the town some time in the past. One of the wooden slates in the shrine has a faded history that says the place had been visited by demons that killed their victims within 3 days, and includes the symptoms (fever, nose bleeds, stomach pains, death). Shinra and Tatsuki find the main black diamond route, and trudge up the hill; right after that, the old man puts up the sign saying that the route is closed. Part of the way up, a storm blows in, forcing the two to hide in a nearby cabin. Inside is a bear hunter named Tanigawa. Tanigawa doesn't know anything about a ski resort, the name of the town, Kushino, or even about a snow storm. When they exit the cabin, the weather is perfect. They go down to the village, now with a different name, which is currently in the middle of a crisis. Along the way, when asked if he is hunting bear today, Tanigawa suddenly goes stiff and answers "no, today I'm shooting humans". Then, he returns to normal. In the village, Tanigawa's wife, a trained nurse, is tending to patients. So far, 8 have died following the symptoms described in the shrine. Shinra assumes that because the village was renamed to "Kushino", that "Ku" means 9. Since they've apparently traveled back in time, they have to solve some puzzle to return to their own time. So, they may have to prevent the 9th patient from dying.

(Clue #2.)

===== Spoilers =====

The nurse is looking pretty weak, and her husband is tasked with taking care of the mayor, who has been swatting her on the butt whenever she walks by. Shinra sees a number of mice in the village, and someone tells him that the pesticide they've been using has killed all of the cats in the region, so Tatsuki speculates that "Ku" means "9 lives", and the cat shrine was erected in memory of the dead cats. Pretty quickly, Shinra realizes that the symptoms match the plague, a hantavirus transmitted through rat droppings. He also suspects that the 9th victim isn't going to die of disease. They run to the village, where the nurse is trying to escape and everyone is yelling at Tanigawa to shoot her before she can get out and infect everyone else in Japan. Tatsuki hits him with a snowball, throwing off his aim. The nurse comes back, saying that the mayor had told her that her husband had collapsed and she was running to find him. The mayor was upset at having his sexual harrassments exposed and wanted revenge on her. He's subdued and the police are notified. A snowstorm springs up and Tatsuki yells that they need to bring in more cats to kill the mice. Then, suddently the two kids are back in their own time again, as the rest of the class looks at them and wonders why they're yelling. Later, on the bus back home, Tatsuki tries to tell a few of her friends what happened, but no one believes her. Shinra says that he thinks "Kushino" translates to "Eternal Suffering". Outside, he sees the old man that had told them about the shrine. Around his neck is a string of bear teeth, like the one Tanigawa had been wearing.

The science concerns a discussion of the plague that had affected parts of Japan for a while. This mirrors the story The Sage's Bequest (volume 19, Q.E.D.) where Kana is the victim of an H.G. Well's type time machine.

'The Mayor tries to cover his tracks as a womanizer.)

(Shinra's classmate is upset that the boy wouldn't show him what he'd been drawing in class.)

Osuyagi no Sou (The Statue of a Male Goat, Monthly Shonen Magajin, 2008).
Shinra is planning on rearranging his museum to make it more attractive to visitors. He draws up a layout plan and hires some of his classmates to help him catalog and move the smaller stuff. The larger items will be handled by a professional company that specializes in museum and art gallery work. Unfortunately, the company, which is run by Wataru Gakefuchi and his sister, Yuki, is getting close to bankruptcy. They took the business over from their father, and Wataru is thinking about giving up and trying something else. Suddenly, they're approached by an unnamed ganster and two henchmen. They offer a packet of money in return for letting one of the two henchmen pose as a worker while they do the Shinra museum job. The gangster wants his man to steal a particular statue of a male goat from Mesopotamia, and replace it with a fake during the move. Wataru wants to say no, but he and his sister really need the cash, and the gangster implies that bad things may happen to them if they don't help him.

(The offer.)

===== Spoilers ======

During the move, there are a few points where the switch could be made, but someone seems to interrupt them each time. Tatsuki thinks the statue is cute, and Shinra explains that it came from Mesopotamia, from an area called "Uru" (in Japanese) 2600 years ago. Along the way, the group puts an early man-powered flying machine out in front of the building, suspended from the roof. On the last day, the henchman makes the switch and Wataru suffers from pangs of guilt and warns Shinra. The Henchman is too fast, so Tatsuki drags the boy to the 2nd floor entrance and they jump into the plane, with Tatsuki pedalling furiously. Shinra picks this moment to tell her that this model was never able to fly and they go into a power dive into the henchman. The guy escapes, but Shinra recovers the goat statue. Later, the gangster is in the home of a rich collector, explaining that his plan was to have 2 fakes made up. The real statue was switched with a fake on the first day, and the henchman made the second switch specifically to give Shinra the impression that he still had the real thing if doubts of its authenticity ever arose. He asks for a few million dollars for the statue, but the collector refuses, gets up and leaves. Then, Shinra, Tatsuki and Mao enter the room. The gangster had first approached Mao about this job and she'd turned him down. Shinra thought that the henchman was trying too obviously to be caught, and he talked to Mao about the statue showing up on the black market. Mao is upset that someone would try to do something behind her back, and she makes the gangster promise to be good before letting him go. Naturally, as payment for her assistance, she demands Shinra to give her the goat. Finally, Wataru has decided to close the company down. His sister wants him to apologize to Shinra, but he can't face the boy right now. Meanwhile, Shinra's classmates think that it's a waste to have rearranged everything if there's no visitors to see it. They want to get the word out, but Shinra tells them a story of when he and his mother had found a sea creature skeleton on the beach. She'd said that there are now 3 people that know about it - the one that found it, the one the finder shows it to, and someone that hears about it second hand. Who is the one that gets the greatest joy from it? So, Shinra refuses to advertise. Instead, the class prints up fliers showing Shinra's hand-drawn layout plan with the sentence "Can you find us?" Two boys see the flier, but they have no idea where the museum is. Wataru sees them, and decides that he'll guide them there after all.

The science just consists of some history about Uru and the goat.

(Back cover, with the goat.)

Comments: As mentioned above, all four of these stories are straight mysteries, with no really interesting science or art history. The Kushino Mura story was something of an exception, because it clearly implies that the curse of a grudge is capable of pulling people through time, violating the "answer follows from logic" principle of the series, but I like the artwork of the slate from the Shinto shrine. Also, the 130 million victims storyline does illustrate the mentality of the bulk of the population that I've mentioned in the reviews of Q.E.D., in that no one wants to take responsibility for the damage they do to others. So, from that standpoint, if you want to understand the culture a bit better, this book is recommended.

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